Joris “JoJo” Montijo (center) with models wearing four pieces from her “Curves with Confidence” collection. Contributed photo.

Iowa State designer features curves with confidence

Joris “JoJo” Montijo wants other plus-sized women to have the same confidence that she does — whether they’re walking down the runway or going about their everyday lives.

“That’s the main thing you need for everything in life,” she said.

Montijo, a senior in apparel, merchandising, and design who grew up in Puerto Rico, is among dozens of student designers whose work will light up The Fashion Show 2017 at Iowa State University.

The April 8 show will feature more than 150 student-designed garments on the runway and in the mounted exhibitions. For the first time in 35 years, the show will also be broadcast live on The Fashion Show’s website.

Montijo’s “Curves with Confidence” collection features five pieces including dresses, blouses, pants, shorts, and lingerie — all made for the plus-sized woman, sizes 12 to 20. Being a plus-sized woman herself, Montijo said she knows the struggles and understands the needs.

“For me, fashion is for all, not for just one type of person,” she said. “I want women to feel confident about themselves. I want them to feel comfortable with what they wear, to have that spark.”

Being a plus-sized model

Montijo (left) was a model in the 2016 Fashion Show

Montijo isn’t new to the runway.

She was selected to model another designer’s work in The Fashion Show 2016. This year, she’s proud to be showcasing her own line of clothing as a designer for plus-sized women. 

“We need that in the industry,” she said. “You deserve to have trendy clothes — clothes that make you feel sexy — so that’s what I want to give them.”

As a model, Montijo closed the Lane Bryant show at the International Fuller Woman Festival last September in Detroit.

As a designer, she presented her collection last fall at a University of Minnesota fashion show, and will again show her collection there April 15. She recalls how one of her shiest models became confident when wearing a garment she designed.

“That made my heart — I was happy because that’s what I want my clothing line to portray,” she said. “I just want them to feel beautiful and confident.”

In addition to showcasing her work on the runway at The Fashion Show 2017, Montijo will also hold her own plus-sized fashion show featuring garments designed by herself and recent Iowa State alumni. She plans to hold the event at 11:50 a.m. Friday, April 7 in front of the Memorial Union by the fountain on campus and hopes it will make a statement against body shaming.

Lessons learned in draping, pattern making

Montijo didn’t know how to sew when she came to Iowa State. She initially majored in biology and thought she’d become a neonatologist.

Through her classes in draping and patternmaking, she’s come a long way. The material for one item in Montijo’s collection — a burgandy, yellow, and orange lingerie romper with a mandala design, beading, and lace — was made using Iowa State’s digital textile printer.

What is impressive is that Joris created this line prior to taking AMD 495, the senior capstone class — which demonstrates initiative and passion,” said Eulanda Sanders, the Donna R. Danielson Professor in Textiles and Clothing. “Joris’ line speaks highly of the instruction that she has received in the flat-pattern and draping courses in the program taught by Ellen McKinney and Christina Denekas, respectively.”

Faculty members praise Montijo’s positive attitude and desire to learn. She attributes that positive spirit to being raised by a single mom, seeing her mom’s struggles, and realizing that she is blessed. She had a nanny who would tell her that if she doesn’t have anything positive to say, she shouldn’t say anything at all.

“I really appreciate her positive attitude and self-confidence in her own unique style,” said Ellen McKinney, an assistant professor in apparel, events, and hospitality management. “I do think it is important to have students working in the plus-size ranges. Plus-size is a very important part of the overall women’s apparel business. We are very fortunate to have in our department women’s dress forms in a full range of sizes.”

Montijo currently works as a teaching assistant in an Iowa State draping class. She plans to graduate in December after she takes that senior capstone class, and hopes to work as a technical designer for a plus-sized clothing brand.

“I've taught her for around a year now, starting with AMD 325 draping in the fall and now in digital printing,” said Christina Denekas, a lecturer in apparel, events, and hospitality management. “She brings a light to the classroom with her energy and encouragement to the students as they drape projects and encounter problems.”

Fashion Show tickets on sale

The Fashion Show 2017 will be held at 7 p.m. April 8 at C.Y. Stephens Auditorium. This year’s theme is “Altered Aspects” and the guest designer will be Abasi Rosborough.

Public ticket sales began March 20. Tickets are $15 for students, and $15 to $30 for adults through the Iowa State Center box office, with a $2 ticket discount for six or more. Tickets can also be purchased online through Ticketmaster.

The Fashion Show, in its 35th year, attracts more than 2,200 people each year. Student designers compete in 17 categories, including a new category called Inspired by the Textiles and Clothing Museum.

Beyond the show itself, student organizers hold a month-long online crowdfunding campaign, schedule philanthropic endeavors, work with alumni and local businesses, and plan a whole week of Fashion Week events including pop-up shops — all culminating in the big event.